tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC February 17, 2014 11:00pm-12:01am PST
>> the number 4 is close to the number 3, but not the same number. bill nye, thank you for joining us tonight. >> thank you. calling the cops. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews from washington. let me start tonight with this. who are you going to call? you're stuck in traffic, can't get to work, the hours pass, you are going nuts. then a policeman asks you to lower your window, ask you if you're frustrated, that's the word he uses, frustrated. tells you to call the mayor of ft. lee. tells you that's where the problem is coming from. get it? not the bridge authorities, not the guy who appointed the people who were doing this thing. no. if you want to know who to blame, blame the mayor of ft. lee, the guy the christie people
are out to punish, punish good. so now we come to who did this. who recruited this team, who gave them their marching orders. who let it all happen once he saw the ft. lee mayor was getting his punishment. governor christie's defense is that he didn't get out there on the bridge himself. let's listen. >> i worked the cones, actually, matt. unbeknownst to everybody, i was actually the guy out there. i was in overalls and a hat. but i actually was the guy working the cones out there. you really are not serious with that question. >> sarcasm isn't much of a defense, it is, now that we know the whole escapade came directly from the governor's office. the police that did put the cones over the four days were part of the politics. that they personally were telling drivers to deliver the dreaded message, that the men charged with protecting lives on the george washington bridge were the director deliverance of the caper.
are you frustrated? are you? just how ticked off are you? tell me more. you've got time. you're going to be sitting here another four hours. who is supervising this mayhem? it turns out it's david wildstein. mike kelly is a columnist for "the bergen record" and has been reporting on jersey politics for four decades. and matt katz is a report were wnyc radio up in new york. mr. kelly maybe i'm slow on this case, to finally get sort of an old polaroid view of what actually happened. you're going to be really late, you can sense. and a guy asks you to roll down your window and says are you frustrated? it's a police officer that is there to protect you and get you through traffic safely. and he says are you frustrated? well, if you are, you should go and make a phone call to the ft. lee mayor and blame it on him, because he made a decision recently that is causing this.
and then apparently dozens and dozens of calls like this went to the ft. lee mayor. message delivered, i'm out to screw you. what is the return address on that letter? that's the great question. mike? >> that is a great question, chris. yeah, this has been one of the mysteries as i said that has been lingering around this controversy almost since the day it broke. and that is if this in fact is political retribution, how did the message on political retribution get delivered to the mayor of ft. lee? and what i was able to put together was simply by connecting the dots and interviewing some motorists, and also talking to some people in ft. lee and what actually they heard when the calls came in to the police station and into borough hall. and what happened here was a similar message that kept repeating itself over and over again, and that was police instructing motorists to call the borough of ft. lee and complain specifically to the mayor. i got to tell you, chris, we don't know how many motorists were instructed to do this. the best estimate i could come up with was that dozens were
instructed this way. but what is key here, what is absolutely key is the similarity of the message. and that's why -- that's why the legislative committee in trenton that is investigating this is taking this so seriously. >> well, let me get to this point. i want to hang with you since you're doing such great reporting here. those police officers are, they career people? are they political appointees? what are they? it seems to me it's hard for a police officer not to know he or she is delivering a political message with a political purpose, payback. what other reason could these millennium have for believing they were doing this service to the public of saying blame the mayor of ft. lee? >> well, that's a question, chris, that i actually outlined in a column for sunday about this. we don't know how this came off and we don't know how these police officers were pulled into this. i mean, cops as you know often just take orders and they go ahead and they do their job. i got to tell you something. the port authority police are not necessarily a politicized force. i know some of these guys from the 9/11 attacks.
i spent a lot of time with them at ground zero. these are guys that generally take an enormous kind of pride in the amount of work they do and the training that they go through. in this case, i think what is the underlying question is how did this message get ordered down from the top? and how was it conveyed to the cops. and that's one of the questions that we're still looking into. >> anyway, your piece in "the bergen record" paints a truly remarkable seen of where police are telling all these ticked off drivers to funnel their anger. quote, your piece. as motorists slowly rolled toward the bridge's tollbooths, many rolled down their windows and asked police what was causing so much congestion. a pattern soon emerged. in numerous cases, say drivers, ft. lee officials and others familiar with the situation, aggravated motorists were told by port authority police officers at the scene that they should call the mayor or borough officials. and according to one driver, the police were aggressive in approaching some drivers with that message.
quote, as motorist robert michel approached the single access lane to the bridge's tollbooths, an officer sought him out. quote, he kind of motioned to me. are you frustrated michel said the officer asked. what is going on? call the mayor's office to complain michel said the officer responded. it looks like many drivers did just that. quote, dozens of motorists telephoned either the borough's municipal offices or the ft. lee police department. what was significant and suspicious was the similarity of the message. the message got through to sokolich. so much that he wrote a panic letter to bill baroni when the closure spilled into day four. he wrote, quote, adding insult to injury, many members of the public have indicated to me that the port authority police officers are advising commuters in response to their complaints that this recent traffic debacle is the result of a decision that i as the mayor recently made.
let me go to matt katz at wnyc. this is what brings it home to me. after all the weeks of trying to figure out the politics, the hands-on role played by police officers who are not politicians carrying out a political vendetta. the misuse of authority here over police officers using them for some cheap political number here on the mayor, wittingly or not, these cops were basically playing like they were ward healers, local paws in a political army doing the dirty work of wildstein, kelly, and maybe the governor. we don't know. but this is terrible. this is -- cops are supposed to defend you and protect you and get you to where you want to go safely. and they do try to do that. these police officers were misused, abused, and contorted into this political crap show. your thoughts. >> yeah, and thanks to reporting from your own steve kornacki this weekend, we know that one of these police officers was
actually escorting david wildstein who ordered the lanes closed, actually escorting him around that first day of the lane closures. >> you solid on that right now? do we know that for a fact? >> we know that from the e-mails that have been released and the text messages, that this lieutenant was texting -- the lieutenant in the port authority police was texting back and forth with david wildstein that morning. >> damn good reporting. it's the e-mails that i'll be picked up at 7:28, 7:30. it's very precise about the guy coming to get him. you're right. >> it could tell us that this officer was just escorting an official around from the port authority because he thought there was a legitimate traffic study, which is the excuse they used after the fact for these lane closures. or perhaps he was complicit in this whole scheme. >> what do you make of the fact -- what do you make of the fact that the police union guy
coming up with the idea of a traffic study after they already had the traffic jams? i mean, that seems like collusion to me and basically mayhem and mischief. why would you want to come up with an excuse for something that is already happening that has nothing do with reality? why would anybody want to do that? who is benefitted by that? delicious are documents indicating that there was some sort of traffic study, i mean, very limited, but i mean, there might have been a cover story being developed before this actually happened. so we don't know the complicity of all the officers. we do know that the police union endorsed christie, which was unusual among uniformed police and fire in this election. the port authority police union did endorse christie for reelection. >> i want to get to where this is going, mike. back to you and i'll be back to you in a minute. here is the question. you have patrick foye who is the whistle-blower here, he is wait a minute, what is all this traffic stuff, what is all this jam about?
i want to get to the bottom of it. and now he has an investigation that he has undertaken of the police and the role they're playing in. this but he is saying i don't want the head of the police department having anything to do with this investigation. he is basically saying i don't trust this guy. i want somebody outside handling this. where are we going with this? >> right now, chris, we have a real credibility problem which thank goodness patrick foye who is the executive director, he is the top man there, he is beginning to address this at least. and this is a serious issue. the port authority is essentially investigating itself. and oftentimes the general public simply doesn't trust those kinds of investigations. i think -- but it is a good start, i think, to walk down that road. just to get back to one thing. the whole traffic study explanation was developed after the fact. there was a lot of concern. if you go through those e-mails that circulated ahead of time, you don't see references to how
this was going to be a legitimate traffic study. so a major question mark has to really be placed beside anything that says traffic study at this point in time. and particularly now, because the whole idea of a traffic study has been basically discredited. >> who -- when you go to try to find out, i don't know where your report song this, you mentioned a few minutes ago, who told the police officers who are civil servants to start teasing the difficult situation commuter, oh, by the way, blame the mayor of ft. lee. that seems an extraordinary role to play by a police officer. usually they say move over to the side, let me see your license and registration, your taillight is out. police officers deal with very particular matters for motorists. they don't deliver complicated political messages about who to blame. >> that's right. >> i have to tell you, i was a cop for a while when i first came to washington, capitol police. police officers do take orders, but i never heard of an order that was to deliver a political message. it just seems extraordinary. i'm sorry.
i just don't buy the fact that that is normal police behavior. blame the mayor of ft. lee for some decision he made. who would tell the people to do that that wasn't like a political commissar going around using the ranks to get a political message across that person is a hack, a ward healer, and the police were used as such. your thoughts. how high up do you think it had to go? >> i think, chris, the question you raise is still unanswered. how was this message communicated? what is being looked at -- i can only tell you what somebody looked at. that david wildstein was at the bridge that morning and somehow perhaps a message to the police officers was communicated from him. that is not known yet. that's not a fact. that's something that we're still looking at. but what we do know is that the cops did get that message. now, if you've been a police officer, and i've hung out enough with police officers, you know that they tend to try to be as precise as possible.
and so i can guess, and this is purely a guess on my part, that they were probably wondering what is going on this morning. they may have asked a superior. they may have asked each other. and this is probably what they were told to communicate. but, again, we don't know how many officers were involved. and we don't know how many motorists they actually stopped. >> you wouldn't. you wouldn't tell anybody who is a driver or a community to go make a phone call and complain about a political decision or a policy. you might say we hear it has something to do with ft. lee. >> right. >> you would be very vague. you wouldn't know. you wouldn't make that charge to the personnel. like this guy said. roll down your window. are you frustrated? if you're frustrated, you should call the mayor that doesn't sound like some scuttlebutt through the ranks like whether we're getting comp time or not. that's the kind of conversation police officers have. >> right. >> well, that's why, chris, that's why this whole scenario is very, very suspicious. as you know, if you're going to do political retribution, you
have to have a way of communicating to the target of that retribution that in fact you are targeting him. so this is the best case scenario that has been put together for how that message was put across. and believe me, the message did get across. >> okay, great, guys. mike kelly, thank you so much. matt katz, thank you so much. please come back again, matt. coming up, is bill clinton fair game for republicans campaigning against hillary clinton in 2016? more to the point, when going after a very popular ex-president be smart politics or bad politics? also, perception versus reality. the health care law. we know it's getting better and better in terms of its implementation. but voters don't see it that way yet certainly. tonight how they hope to meet the obama scare with a scare of their own. kevin spacey's character has a lot of people talk about how he reminds them of another president who gets things done. guess who it might be. finally, let me finish with a difference between george washington whose birthday is honored today, and the idiots
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it's been five years since president obama signed into law the $800 billion stimulus bill. and speaker john boehner used the occasion today to say the stimulus has turned out to be a classic case of big promises and big spending with little results. well, boehner did not mention five years ago the country was losing between 700,000 and 800,000 jobs a month. since then there has been 40 straight months of job growth. unemployment has dropped to 6.6. and the stock market has more than doubled since this recession. we'll be right back. vo: once upon a time,
and the good queen showed the boy it could all be real. avo: all of great britain, all in one place. book on expedia before march 16th and save up to thirty percent. i don't think bill clinton is as relevant as hillary clinton if hillary clinton decides to run for president. and in her case, i think people will look at her record as the secretary of state and say during that period of time, did
our relations with nations around the world elevate america and elevate our interests, or were they receding? and i think her record is what will be judged upon, not the record of her husband. >> i think that guy should go directly into the hall of presidents at disney world. he looks great. >> on "meet the press" yesterday, bill clinton was once again part of the conversation about hillary clinton's political future, just as she was three weeks earlier when rand paul called former president clinton a predator. david gregory asked if he sees them as a political pair. that's when mitt's answer got a little more gritty. >> i think hillary clinton, if she becomes a nominee will have plenty to discuss about her own record. i don't imagine that bill clinton is going to be a big part of it. that being said, the times when he was president were by and large positive economic times for the country. on the other hand, he embarrassed the nation, he breached his responsibility i think as an adult and as a
leader in his relationship, and i think that's very unfortunate. but i don't think that's hillary clinton's to explain. >> in a three-week span now, two high profile republicans, one who ran for president and one who wants to have shown two distinct ways of approaching questions about bill clinton's past and hillary clinton's political future. it all comes down to this. if hillary clinton runs, bill fair game? joining me is howard fineman and susan page, washington bureau chief for usa today. lots of power here in terms of journalism. i'm listening to your circulation numbers coming out of usa today. four million people read that people every day. i'm sorry, maybe eight million people read it. let me ask you this, as woman, as a great reporter, how is the media and the politicians going to cover bill? we all know the monica piece of it. but then there is the bigger piece of the popular bill clinton presidency. how does hillary clinton, assuming she runs, benefit from
the good legacy of the clinton presidency and skirt any problems with the more yuckier questions she might have thrown at her by any web master can throw any question they want. any blogger can yell a question from the street corner. you can't decide what the questions are. your thoughts. >> i don't think hillary clinton can run on either one. the bad things about bill clinton's tenure or even the good ones, people remember fondly the economic good times under bill clinton. but the next president they're going to elect in 2016 has to be looking ahead, not back to 1992 or '96. >> how do you prevent the press from pushing the question? a mainstream reporter there had a follow-up on what rand paul said. and he did it, and he got a great story there. >> can that be her message? her message can't even be the good times from bill clinton. her message is here is what i'm going to do looking forward. and you know what in she has two terms as senator from new york, served as secretary of state. she has other things to talk about with her own record if and when she runs for president.
>> howard, how is this going to be handle by the politicians? will he be fair game? rand paul says he is. mitt romney, who isn't running was gentlemanly about it. but he did tag there. >> i don't think this election should be about the way bill clinton embarrassed himself and the nation. no, no. >> as adults. >> no, no, no. let's not talk about that. no, i think rand paul and the tea party types and c pac, the big conservative jamborees coming up next month in washington, they're going to be all over this. they're going to do whatever they to try to discredit the clintons as a unit, and they'll be utterly ruthless about it. but it may backfire on them. two thanks. first of all, voters under 30 don't care about the '90s, okay. message, they don't care about the '90s, either the good stuff or the bad stadium. they don't know anything about it. that's number one. number two, remember, that hillary clinton is a master of and has succeeded at the role of
the stoic victim. and in the past, when people have overshot -- >> heroic victim even. >> heroic victim. >> i'd say heroic. >> heroic and stoic. when they have gone after her, it has backfired. it could backfire with women. they think they're being clever by peeling off. susan, i don't know what susan thinks about it. but i don't think it's going to work. >> remember when jerry brown went after them on the rose law firm. and bill clinton did one of his great numbers. you can say anything you want about me, but you don't deserve to be on the same stage with hillary. that's great, every husband defending a wife. it's heroic chivalry in action. what happens if hillary clinton stands up and says to what's his name, rand paul or one of these guys on stage in a big debate, you know what? i'm married to the guy. and i love him and get off his back. >> that's exactly what she would say. and if there is a way not to appeal to women voters, blame a woman for transgressions of her husband from 15 years ago. that is a guaranteed way to give
republicans even more problems than they have today. >> are you listening, reince priebus? here is reince priebus, the republican national committee chair says there will be no holds barred if hillary clinton is the democratic nominee in 2016. here is reince. >> i don't see how anyone gets a pass on anything. i think we're going to have a truckload of opposition research on hillary clinton, and some things may be old and some things might be new. but i think everything is at stake when you're talking about the leader of the free world. >> isn't that an interesting image? a truckload of opposition research. but none of it he suggests is a sort of generalized truckload. he doesn't say it has to do with the former first lady or the former president. >> that's a great line when you're going around talking to the troops at the grassroots saying we have a truckload of stuff. the other thing that is going on here is some local politics with rand paul. for me everything revolves around kentucky. but i'll just mention.
>> you're going there soon. >> bill clinton is going into kentucky to campaign for the democratic woman who is running against senator mitch mcconnell. >> right. >> rand paul is doing mitch mcconnell's bidding here. >> he is going to do the truth squad. >> he is going to rough up -- they're going to try to scuff up bill clinton. who by the way is very popular in kentucky. >> bill clinton is going into the lion's layer. >> what is now a red state. >> and you think that rand will attack him again? >> sure. that's part of what is going on. that's a microview. >> i think everything is customized. i think mitt romney handled it pretty well the other day. he still has to keep his street cred with the right. but also said she has her own record to run on. but this other guy rand paul has to look a little bit like a mad dog, doesn't he, susan? >> right. >> i'm going in there to fight this guy. below the belt? maybe a couple of times. i'll aim generally above the belt, but i may miss a couple of times. i think he has to say i'm going to fight. i'm your fighter dog. >> because he is running for the
republican nomination for president in 2016. who goes to republican primaries in places like south carolina? they will be glad to hear anything what bad that can be said against bill clinton or hillary clinton. didn't we litigate this once in 1998 in the middle of it. >> it's a new audience, though. people don't have -- i think that they always say in show business, it's easier to find a new crowd than new material. they're just going to keep going at it. >> my sense of it, and it will cover, the problem that hillary's got is we'll all cover it, regardless. whatever is thrown out there we're probably going to recover. but the fact is older voters who might be moved by this stuff are already there on the republican side. the older conservative voters. if the republicans are going after younger voters, if they're going after diverse voters, if they're going after people under 30, i'm saying this stuff ain't going to work, because it's ancient and it's old news for those kids or nonnews. >> i think you said the way
secretary clinton comes out of the chute next time, a year from now, around february next year, maybe, if she makes a move then, i think everybody wants to see the new product, what she is like now after all the experience she has had at state. that's what people are focusing on. and new message. thank you, howard fineman. thank you, susan page. up next, kevin spacey plays one bad dude, if you will, in "house of cards." he is so dark. what president does he remind you of? this is some grim television. i've been watching every episode. this is "hardball," the place for politics. [ molly ] honey.
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an enduring love between one man and himself. ted, of course, was furious that the big storm back east shut down the government. he said that's my job. but, you know, there is a big difference between ted cruz and snow. both are white and everyone is sick of them. but eventually snow goes away. >> well, time now for the sideshow. that was bill maher after threatening to filibuster the debt ceiling vote last week. next up, what variety called a massive increase on online viewership after season two of "house of cards." according to early data, 16% of subscribers watched at least two episodes of the series on friday night alone there is no question that the fictional washington drama hits home with american audiences. and lead actor kevin spacey has a theory why. it's not the dirty politics that fans love, he says. they love that his character gets things done. here was spacey explaining the
inspiration behind his role on abc's "this week". >> lyndon johnson is a character that my character in "house of cards" admires. you know, during his lifetime and certainly during his presidency, he took an enormous amount of criticism, certainly for his policies in vietnam. but we also have to look at the fact that he passed three civil rights bills in a very short presidency. and yes, he was called ruthless and machiavellian and sob and a lot of things during the course of his life. but people are reexamining people who are willing to do whatever they have to do. >> it's not hard to notice president johnson's influence on spacey's character. he is notoriously effective at getting what he wanted. if you look carefully what is hanging on the walls of his office, it's no surprise to see two very famous photographs of lbj doing just what. this is known as the johnson treatment. bending legislators literally to his will and turning them to his side.
welcome back to "hardball." get ready to hear the word obamacare a lot this year. republicans plan to use the president's health care law, it is affordable care act as a battering ram this november. and conservative groups are all too happy to try to tie democratic candidates this november to the law. take a listen. >> the republic said ann kirkpatrick refused to criticize obama's website for weeks, hardly blowing the whistle. and just days ago kirkpatrick voted against a bipartisan bill to help fix the health care website. still loyal to obamacare, not us. >> alex sink's loyal is to them, not florida. why else we should continue to support obamacare? >> if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. >> that was the lie of the year. but now we know the truth. why does congressman joe garcia
still support obama care? >> wow. according to some report, party leaders say don't run from the issue, rather try to blunt it by going on the attack. politic toe has its hands on a memo that includes 17, quote, poll tested lines of attack. the gist, republicans want to return to the bad old days when insurance companies could deny you coverage or charge you excessive prices. was that a winning message? great question for us tonight. there is no one better than to answer it steve israel from new york. also joining me is joy reid, host of "the reid report" starting next monday at 2:00 eastern on msnbc. that's about five hours before "hardball" every night. steve, let me ask you this. it seems to me this is "hardball." and you've got to be people are coming at you with battering rams. they're going to maliciously blame even not even a member of congress, tie her to obama care. everybody is guilty. everybody is bad. it's a disaster, blah blah blah.
it seems to me you've got one thing going for you. if you get rid of the president's health care plan, we do go back to preexisting conditions knocking you out if you're 50 some years old, you don't get health care. if your kids are becoming young adults, forget about them there are some things you can sell. that what you're going to do? say if you knock out obamacare, you're back to square one. and this is that true? is that what the republicans want, to blow it away, get rid of it completely? >> that's exactly what they want. every election, chris, is about who is on your side. every time the republicans air those commercials what they're telling the people of america is we are on the side of insurance companies. we're on the side of giving them free rein over your health decisions as they did before. we're not on the side of woman with breast cancer who was told by a her insurance company that breast cancer is a preexisting condition. their obsessive devotion to the repeal of affordable care act is going to be used against them. they're for repeal. we're going to hold them accountable for being on the
wrong side of this important economic issue. >> joy, it seems to me first of all, there is a dichotomy here. not everybody is happy with this health care plan. we all know that. it's not a thrill ride for people. but it is a sense that let's not go back to square one. i've senile seen only 38%. a little more than a third of the country want to go back to repealing. i think that's an argument for democrats wait a minute, a minority opinion is to get rid of it so republicans are the wrong side of history if we play this right. >> republicans were on stronger ground before the affordable care act was implemented. it's always what have you got and what can be taken away from you. so they had this scare tactic. 85% of americans already have health insurance. so the thought that something called obama care could take away insurance or make it more expensive really scared people, particularly older people and it was a really strong ground for 2010. but now you talked about florida. look at alex sink running in florida. florida has enrolled 300,000 people approximately in the affordable care act. so now the question is what are you going to take away from them.
republicans have 60% of the target for florida has already been met. and that's also through in kentucky, in colorado. in a lot of the states they're saying you 300,000 people are going to lose something you've already got. that's a powerful position for democrats to be in. >> and the latest numbers on private insurance signups show what you said, a much more positive picture of the law according to the department of health and human services. 1.1 million americans have signed up for a private insurance plan in january alone that brings the total since enrollment began to 3.3 million. and still about a million below target. but also some other good news. the percentage of young and healthy enrollees grew in january. 27% between 18 and 34. anyway, the perception is still that the law isn't working. perhaps one reason is the overwhelming number of political ads on the topic, according to kantor media, there is just over a thousand commercials airing in january alone that focused on health care. a thousand ads out there.
of these, only seven, seven, did not contain negative messages about the affordable care act. steve, how do you deal with this? how do you deal with the fact that you're getting blown away? i remember the president, one of our briefs years ago said, you know, $200 million against health care during the presidential campaign of 2012. at least he had something to fight back with. it seems like boehner says this is all he wants to talk about. mcconnell it's all he wants to talk about. they believe they can take the senate, build their strength on the house on this one issue alone. how are they wrong in their thinking, the other side? >> i'll tell you how they are wrong. they have made a strategic calculation that this is going to be a midterm election base versus base. their base is divided. it is weak. they're in a civil war. the only thing that animates their base, the only thing that gets there base out to vote is obsessive devotion to the repeal of the affordable care act. where they're losing is in this area. the majority of moderate voters
do not want the affordable care act repealed. they want it fixed and improved. and so we're going to continue to talk about fixing and improving where we can, what we can. they're going to continue talking about repealing. and i believe that we're going to win the argument, particularly with those moderate and independent voters. >> what if they lie, steven, say they want to repair. they're going to fix it up little bit and give you all the parts you like but none of the parts you don't like. >> see, here is the problem, chris. >> yeah? >> here is the problem. they haven't told the american people what they would replace it with, except in one instance. two weeks ago, for the first time since the law was enacted, three republican senators put their replacement on the table. and the national journal had a time the next day, republican plan, you pay more. so they can lie. we'll tell the truth. we're fighting back. we're going on offense. defense doesn't work anymore. we're going on offense. we're going to hit him hard with the facts. they're going to spend a lot of money lying, but we're fighting back. >> and chris, i can't think of
anything crazier, i have to say, than proposing that we relitigate a national health care plan. if that is really what republicans are going to do, i think that's political malpractice. i think a lot of the country really at this point really has health care fatigue, and talking about the affordable care act is not as hot as it was in 2010. because people i think are a little exhausted by it. and if the strategy for the gop is to relitigate it with their own plan, that is crazy. so i hope that's not their plan, because it doesn't make sense. >> you know what is good, congressman, about election night and joy? we find white house is right. thank you so much, steve israel and joy reid. up next, it's george washington's birthday. so where does number 44 rank with the first 43? this is "hardball," the place for politics. [ male announcer ] this is joe woods' first day of work.
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we're back. president obama has spoken openly about his legacy in recent months. last month he told the new yorker's david remnick that at the end of the day, quote, we're a part of a long running story. we just try to get our paragraph right. well, a few weeks earlier, president obama came to "hardball" and said this about his how his legacy of accomplishment will be viewed. let's listen. >> the interesting thing about now having been president for five years is it makes you humbler as opposed to cockier about what you as an individual can do. you recognize that you're just part of a sweep of history, and your job really is to push the boulder up the hill a little bit before somebody else pushes it up a little further, and the task never stops at perfecting our union. >> as he continues to push that boulder up the hill, president obama's legacy is up for debate.
in honor of george washington's birthday, politico magazine asked ten leading historians how president obama rank news among his predecessors. sean wilentz, douglas brinkley at rice university. thank you, gentlemen. >> i would put him around what bill clinton is able to do. obviously, there are different kinds of accomplishments. and like dwight highs hour. eisenhower created the korean war. it was unpopular. he got us out of korea. getting out out of iraq, afghanistan. and i think he has opened the net with gay rights to get more gay people involved in the democratic party, at least in american politics. and getting two women to the
supreme court. not great, not near great, but above average at this point. >> biggest failure is underestimating congress, the blowback that he was going to get, maybe overselling himself in 2008, creating really high expectations that were almost impossible to live up to. >> professor wilentz, thank you for coming on. people always listen to you. i know you get a lot of attention when you give these dicta. is it too early, first of all? >> i think it is too early. to an extraordinary degree, an unusual degree, i think president obama's legacy is going to depend on who his successor. look, health care of all, getting the economy back on track. those are very vulnerable. if he is succeeded by a republican, obamacare is over, right? the economy, the legacies left behind on regulation and so
forth, that's going to be gone too. so apart from being the first african american president, which is historic, and no one can take that away from him, i think that his legacy is still up for grabs. >> that's so fascinating. i read all the short terse remarks by the historians, including you, and i thought that was great. it's something you can see as a verdict rather soon, two years from now, two and a half years from now we'll know. and is this like george bush sr.? his election in '88 is of reagan and gave him an added punch for his place in history. and if it had been mike dukakis pulling an upset, reagan wouldn't be reagan today? >> yeah, but i don't think -- perhaps. but i don't think that the election in 2016 is going to be quite like that. the fact is that hillary clinton comes after the -- if she is the nominee, hillary clinton will be at a very different place than george bush was as vice president. he got through. the problem for bush was he was only going to be a one-termer
because of divisions within the republican party. >> let me ask douglas about this question. if you get clinton, i think secretary clinton is probably going to run. who knows. i think she'll probably run if he runs. i have no information beyond that if she wins, does obama become a clinton sandwich? i mean, he wanted to be a transformational president. he is simply transforming the president from one clinton to another, one could argue cynically that the clintons have won that battle. your thoughts. >> well, yes. if hillary clinton wins, you're going to see ronald reagan and the clintons as being sort of the seminole transformative characters of the second half of the 20th century. i agree with sean's general thesis. it's so important what obama care means to the obama legacy. and if a republican's gone in and that got thrown out, it won't look good for barack obama's presidency. however, hillary has a really great chance. and remember, there is such a thing as an obama democrat. the african american community has stayed behind them at historic numbers, 90%, 95% still
behind him. he can help deliver some of that vote for hillary clinton in ohio, florida, virginia and other states. >> i agree with you, doug. if she holds on to the obama care, in fact, obama but adds some more working class whites and maybe some conservative other people. but basically, he's got the election won. let me ask you about where he can still do something great. if he finds a way of avoiding a war, will be long-term iran and hezbollah? is that going to be a big one? >> i think in foreign policy, if he can work out the iranian situation and get a treaty there, even more than iraq and afghanistan, that will be his biggest legacy in foreign policy, apart from the bin laden business. but that will be it, i think. that would be historic. and it would change things around for him. no question. >> douglas, your thought. is that the big one still waiting for him? >> yeah, but remember, he also helped us understand the limits of american intervention abroad.
you see barack obama in some ways like jimmy carter and foreign policy trying to keep us out of wars. and in the long run, that's going to be a big part of his legacy, that we didn't have an iraq debacle like we had with george w. bush during his presidency. >> well said. thank you, gentlemen. it's great having you on a day like today. by the way, it is george washington's birthday. i don't know what this mattress sale is all about on president's day. a little bug from me. sean wilentz and doug brinkley from rice. we'll be right back.
accomplishment will be viewed. let's listen. us to victory over the british army, of course, then resigned as commission rather than become a dictator which happened so often in the world including this modern world. he left the presidency after two terms rather that staying on for life. again, a pattern in so many other countries ever since. it was another george who put it best. the king of england asked his american painter, portrait painter benjamin west what he thought washington would do after winning revolutionary war. west, who had moved to england, answered, they say he will return to his farm. here's what the english king said on hearing this. if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world. and so he lived to see the difference between those great leaders who understand the privilege of power, and those
petty beings who know only enough to abuse it. george washington and the idiots on his bridge. happy birthday, mr. president, from the people who know the difference. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening from new york. i'm chris hayes. tonight, the investigation into bridge-gate widens. last night, the executive director of the port authority ordered the port authority's police chief to investigate the role of some of their own officers in the ft. lee lane closures. one from the "bergen record" about police officers on the ground during the traffic in ft. lee telling frustrated motorists to complain to the mayor sokolich. and the other from our own steve kornacki about an acquaintance of the governor who was at the scene.